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Guilt History: Benjamin's Sketch "Capitalism as Religion" Author(s): Werner Hamacher and Kirk Wetters Source: Diacritics, Vol.

32, No. 3/4, Ethics (Autumn - Winter, 2002), pp. 81-106 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 01/04/2010 15:47
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History as Exchange Economy

Since historycannotbe conceivedas a chainof eventsproduced by mechanicalcausation, it must be thought of as a connection between occurrences that meets at least two conditions: first that it admit indeterminacy and thus freedom, and second that it nonetheless be demonstrablein determinateoccurrencesand in the distinct form of theircoherence.Relationscan thusbe calledhistoricalandcan be recognizedas historical only if they are determinedby neithernecessity nor chance, and if theircausalityis of a of history can thereforebe differentorderthanthe mechanical.The temporalstructure of characterizedon the one hand by the distinct connection its elements-and on the other hand by the dissolution of all connections that do not assist these elements in achieving their independence. has A temporalnexus that clearly does not satisfy these conflicting requirements been characterizedin one of the oldest texts of occidental philosophy as the time of (fromabout500 BC),handeddown by guilt. Accordingto the sentenceof Anaximander Simpliciusin his commentary(530 AD) on Aristotle'sPhysics, the origin and end of all to the law of necessity (kata to kreon)."Theymust pay penance things is subordinated and be judged for their injustice, accordingto the orderof time (kata ten tou chronou tdxin)"-so the fragmentreads in the translationoffered by Nietzsche in his treatise the sequence Accordingto Anaximander, "Philosophyin the TragicAge of the Greeks." of time ordersthe rise and fall of all things and ordersthem in accordancewith the law of guilt andpunishment so thatbecoming(genesis)is a guilt(adikia)thatmustbe expiated in perishing. Time and more precisely its taxis, the positing of time, is thought in debt and payback.It is a Anaximander'ssentence as an orderof guilt and retribution, time of economy in the sense thatit is the time of law-and precisely a law thatis valid for all beings, a tdxis,a decree,an ordinanceandan ordering-in which the unavoidable incurringof guilt is atoned in an equivalentpenance that is just as unavoidable.The strictcoherenceof guilt andpenanceis ascertained by the principleof theirequivalence. Time is thereforeconceivedhereas a doubleprocessof coming into being andperishing,
Translator's note: This essay was originally published in a slightly longer version, as als Religion,'" in Kapitalismus als Religion, "Schuldgeschichte: BenjaminsSkizze 'Capitalismus ed. DirkBaecker(Berlin:Kulturverlag Kadmos,2003), 77-120. Themostimportant terminological difficultyof this translationconcerns the Germanword Schuldand relatedterms.Schuldmeans, as well as, in other senses andforms, "toblame," "tobe to put it simply,both "guilt"and "debt," atfault, " and "toowe." Theoriginal textof the essay typicallyhas several of these senses in mind at once, and at certainpoints in the argumentit may be useful to keep this in mind. Generally,I have translatedaccording to the context,but, in the interestof terminologicalconsistency,I have also tried to optfor the English word "guilt"wheneverpossible.

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a process that occurs in such a way that the genesis is erased in its passing away-so thattime is thus erasedby time itself. InAnaximander's of coming sentence,however,time is not only the double-process it into being and passing away, is-as a tdxis-the common and constantlyenduring medium of the exchange of the contrarybut equivalentmotions of coming into being and perishing. It is the time of the quid pro quo of everythingthat is generatedand passes away within time. Its measure is a justice that representsitself as a tdxis and therebyas the positing andthe law of all becoming and vanishing,the law ofphysis and its demise as an onto-economiclaw. This taxiological orderof time places every realm of the naturaland humanworld undera law of substitutionwithoutexception;this also allows ethical,juridical,andeconomic conceptsto substitutefor one anotherwithinthis order. The ethicaldimensionofjustice, thuscircumscribed by the orderof time, is reduced to the juridicaldimension of the decree, and both now define themselves accordingto the calculusof "anexchangeeconomy in an eternallyunchanging householdof nature."' It can only, however, be a matterof an ethics of time to the extent that this ethics, to the schema of exchange, trade, alreadyjuridified and economized, is subordinated and the equivalence of guilt and retribution. The time of history,ethical time, is thus in Anaximander's sentenceas a normativetime of inculpationandexpiation. interpreted Whateverenters this tdxis of time is thereby alreadyguilty and can only become excused by its perishing. time is the schemaof guilt andretribution: Accordingto the thesis of Anaximander, The injusticecommittedby the progressof time occurs, however,like its remediation, Thistime is therefore thatof a guilt-anddebt-continuum, unfreely. continuallyadvancing withouta gap in its eternalrecurrences.But it is not the time of history.

History,Etiology It is unknownwhetherWalterBenjaminwas familiarwith this sentenceof Anaximander. Hermann cites a fragment of the pre-Socratic Cohen,in manyregards teacher, Benjamin's in and without his 1918Religionof Reasonfromthe Sources reference, saying,fleetingly of Judaism, in the chapteron "The Idea of the Messiah and Humanity":"The world must pay in punishment(diken did6nai) for its existence." From this and the earlier works of Cohen, Benjaminmay have been familiarwith the early Greek equationof time and guilt. In one of his fragmentary notes on the concept of history,perhapsto be datedat the end of the 1910s, Benjamintakes up the connectionand declaresguilt to be a categoryof "worldhistory." He seeks to strictlydifferentiatethis historyof the world (it may be understoodas the history that offers itself in the aspect of its worldliness) from divine history.The critical accent of his exposition is unmistakable: "Guiltis the the uni-directionality highestcategoryof worldhistoryfor guaranteeing (Einsinnigkeit) of what occurs"[GS 6: 92].2Only by the categoryof guilt can the unambiguousness of 1. This is howHeidegger describes it inhis "Spruch desAnaximander" [304].Hisformulation is usedto characterize thecommonplace butto hismind materially unjustified understanding of Anaximander's to thismisunderstanding, thesituation is suchthat "moral fragment. According andjuridicalconcepts [. . .] mixthemselves [304]. It wouldbe up withthe imageof nature" to show his intention to be more true to the matter sentence that, possible despite ofAnaximander's sharesdecisivetraitsof this "misunderstanding." itself Heidegger's understanding 2. Translator's note:Citations aregivenherein myowntranslations. Thisis fromBenjamin alsothecasefor all othercitations, sincethecloseanalysis the cited would otherwise of passages seemimplausible. editions textsof theessayarenotedin thebibliography. English of thecentral The to theGerman editions. The page references givenin thebodyof theessayrefer exclusively


what occurs be guaranteed, its linearorientation,its sense of direction,and the unity of its sense, because only this category refers occurrencesin a nonmechanicalway to an origin and to further consequences in other occurrences. The Greek aition means "provenance" as well as "guilt":guilt is a categoryof descent. It indicatesthatwhatever is priorhas had somethingtakenfrom it by thatwhich follows; or whateveris priorhas withheld something from that which follows it. Every "having"is thus declared as a havingfrom something else that previously had it-as in the debere, the de habere of debt. If guilt is a genealogical category, it is "the highest category of world history" insofar as it is the category of genesis itself and the only category that can accountfor occurrencesin a homogenous sequence. Whateverhappens, it happensfrom an other andtowardyet another andis therefore indebtedto these otheroccurrences. It is, however, also indebtedin the sense thatwhateverhappensin the line of descent occurs as a theft in which somethingis tornaway,leavinga lackin the place of its origin.Guiltaccordingly designatesthe reasonof an absence, a failure, a deficit. Everythingthat happens is guilt. This is why guilt is "the highest category"of history. Benjamin continues in his note: "Everyworld-historicalmoment is indebted and indebting. Cause and effect can never be decisive categories for the structureof worldhistory,becausethey cannotdetermine anytotality.Logic has to provethe principle that no totality as such can be either cause or effect. It is a mistake of the rationalistic conception of history to view any historical totality (that is, a state of the world) as cause or effect. A state of the world is howeveralways guilty with regardto some other later one" [GS 6: 92]. If Benjamin here makes "totality"the criterion for whether something is "guilt"ratherthan "cause,"then this is presumablyfor the reason that a cause as such is completely exhaustedin its being the cause of something other than itself andthereforecannotbe a totalityin itself. Guiltis indeed,like causation,a category of relationto an other-Benjamin defines it in exactly this sense: "A state of the world is only guilty with regardto some otherlater state"-and unlike the category of cause, guilt is not only a categoryof provenancebutalso a categoryof moralandmoreprecisely legal relations,that not only permitsbut ratherrequiresthat the one who is guilty is a self and thus a totality-very much accordingto Cohen's presentationin the Ethics of Pure Will [ErW 370]. A moral connection, a relation out of freedom (even if it be a minimumof freedom) can never be causally grounded.And thereforethe cause-effect relationcannotbe validas a categoryof history,butonly the relatedyet markedlydistinct relationshipof guilt. Guilt is not a mechanicalcausation;it is, however,as a makingor letting happen,as giving occasion, release, and production,a causa in the sense of the
Greek aition.

The word aition names not only a causationof somethingthroughsomethingprior to it, but it designates at the same time the moral guilt that a condition or occurrence carries "with regard to some later one." Only an ait-ical occurrence is an ethical occurrence:in the etiological structureof time and history that Benjaminhas in mind here, every stateof the worldis guilty to the extentthatit releases anotherdeficient state of the worldandbearsthe guilt for it. Every stateof the worldis thereforean incomplete one, a morally or legally lacking condition. Guilt is "the highest category"of history, because it is the category of the causation of deficiencies. Thus it must follow that historyis guilt, and thatit is guilty: it is historyonly to the extent thatit is guilt history, a history out of guilt and a history of guilt. Guilt can only exist where there is history, and every history is a phenomenonof deficiency. And, conversely,there can only be historyif a conditionor an occurrencesevers itself from anotherone without,however, textualbase is in any case quitesmall,comprised as it is by Benjamin's primary three-page " whichhas beenpublished as Religion, in English as a partof Selected fragment,"Capitalism Vol.1 [288-91]. Writings,

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completely losing all relationto it. Guilt is thus a deficitaryrelation,a relationto that which is lacking or missing. All historyis thereforethe historyof guilt in the sense that the form-and only thereforealso the content-of historyis determined by guilt. There is no history that is not about guilt, none that would not have been made guilty by anotherandnone thatfor its own partwould not bearguilt towardyet another-an other that,for its part,can only be historyand guilt in turn.History,in short,is the process by which guilt is incurred-since in its every productionthe no-longer-beingof something else is effected. Guilt is the cause of a not. History,therefore,includingthe study of it, is etiology: the study of occurrencesas causationsof defects. In anothernote that is not only chronologicallyclose to the one underdiscussion, Benjamincharacterizesthe time of guilt, the time of world history,as the time of fate (Schicksal):"Thetime of fate is the time thatat all times can be madesimultaneous(not present).It standsunderthe orderof guilt, which determinesits coherence.It is a time that is not independent;there is neitherpresent,nor past, nor futurewithin it" [GS 6: 91]. The decisive formulationof this note became partof a passage from the treatiseon from September 1919. There it states, more precisely, "thatthis "Fateand Character" time may at any time be made simultaneous(not present) with any other time" [GS of past, barredfrom the differentiation 2.1.176]. A time with this kind of synchronicity, and can be called "a because it future, only completely impropertemporality," present, the and freedom first make time'-as that the separation,distance, precludes 'proper time of morally meaningful action-possible, along with its divisions into various dimensions of time and experience. The dense coherence that obstructs temporal is called the guilt-nexus;fate, thus conceived by Benjamin,is "theguiltdifferentiation nexus of the living" [GS 2.1.175]. This fate, being essentially guilt and more precisely the generativeprocess by which guilt is incurred,blocks historyandproperlyhistorical time. It categoricallyexcludes the possibility of leaving the chain of events connecting everything that is and occurs without at once continuing its sequence and thus reconsolidatingits order even in breaking it. HermannCohen's Ethics of Pure Will, which clearly provides the-sometimes critical-orientation for the relevantissues in Benjamin,statesin the same sense: "Itis [...] always in a fall from fate thatfate fulfills andprovesitself. The concept thatforms the properkernelof fate may be recognizedin the concept of guilt. TheAte extendsitself over a people, over a privilegedpeople, upon This is the reign thatfate extends in the whom the fate of humansmakesitself apparent. subjectionof the individualsof this people. [...] [Myth]still sees no differencebetween the individualandhis people,just as little as Zeus ceases to be an individualgod because he is subjectto thefatum. The evil is guilt. And guilt is fate" [ErW361]. As long as the of a peopledefinesthehumanas a merelynatural "natural coherence" being,manremains defined by the unity of his naturalgenus and by his generationunderthe category of guilt. The sentence, therefore,pronouncedearlier,"everythingthat happens is guilt," can be made more precise: everything that happens by the coherence of natureand generationis guilt-and this is precisely the reason why guilt, as the ultimatecategory of fate,is indeedthe ultimatecategoryof worldhistory,butbecausethe ethicaldimension can only show itself withinthis historyin its negation,as evil, guilt cannotbe the decisive categoryfor humanhistory,norfor historicaltime in general.The time of guilt, the time of theAte andtheaitionthatcan only be improperly called"time," is the time of causation in the sense of the incursionof guilt, valid for the-principally unforeseeable-duration of naturalman toto genere and thereforevalid not for a time or for some time but for all time, not for some individualhumanin his or her singulartime, andneverfor the human as an ethical being, but for the "barelife" in him, which is incapableof any temporal much less a historical one-and which thereforecan only provide the determination,


ahistorical and atemporalfundus out of which another order can emerge through individuation,an orderthat would now be historicalin a strictersense. of guiltandatonement" concatenation Both BenjaminandCohenview "theperpetual as "heathen"and therefore as prereligious and protoethical [GS 2.1.175], because it leaves no room for the individual'scapacityof freedom,nor for any relationto an other andCohen's thatwouldnot standexclusivelyunderthe categoryof guilt.Both Benjamin's conceptionsof ethicsas well as of religionaredefinedin oppositionto the guiltmechanics of the fate systems of antiquity-and especially againstthose of the Greeks-as well as against their later and modem variants.Everythingbelonging to the realm of ethics out of freedom)qualifiesitself to this realmby its rigorous (thatis of self-determination separationfrom all of the elements of myth-from genealogically enforcedguilt, from succession, from sequence,resultsand theircausation,from familial and chronological lines of provenance.Only by the resolute cessation of commerce between guilt and retribution does the humanemerge into the realm of his freedom.Acting in the guiltnexus means following an obligation to act, dictated in advance by another-and is thereforeonly a form of not acting.Anyone who is boundby guilt and obligationdoes andfalls fatally,lethally not do whathe does, butinsteadexecutesa preordained program of an inheritancefrom whose succession he is for action itself, into the predestination not free to abstain. As ethics first takes hold, like strict monotheistic religion-the Judaism of the prophets-where the categoryof guilt falls away,time as historicaltime can only begin where it no longer assumesthe form of a guilt nexus, but ratherof an initiativeex nihilo where every coherence based on indebting-its every bond and chain-falls away. In "Fateand Character" Benjaminopposes "thedogma of the naturalguilt of humanlife, of original guilt" with "the vision of the naturalinnocence of man" [GS 2.1.178] and innocence-might points in the directionof a realmthat-beyond the merely "natural" be called moral and historical innocence. The pagan teaching insists however, to the on the "principleindissolubility"of originalguilt, thepeccata originale, from contrary, solution." which, as Benjaminemphasizes,the pagan"cult"can offer only "atemporary Whathe understands (also accordingto Cohen's sense of it) is not by the word "pagan" only Greek polytheism, but also-and not a bit less-the Christianitythat raised the doctrineof originalsin to the statusof a dogma and extendedthis logic into the furthest reaches of its systems of faith, thought,and behavior.

Capital Guilt History,Methodological If the task of a critiqueof historycan only be satisfiedby a critiqueof guilt history,then as the religionof guilt economy, the privilegedobjectof this critiquemustbe Christianity debtreligion.By specifyingthese objects, andcapitalismas the systemof a deterministic some indication is given as to the place and the weight of Benjamin's fragment "Capitalismas Religion"within the vast projectof his theory of history and politics. The point of the diagnosis given in the formula "Capitalismas Religion" can be highlighted in contrast with Max Weber's works on the sociology of religionas mightbe supposed,with the workscollectedunderthe title TheProtestant particularly, Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.Benjaminwrites: "In capitalisma religion may be discerned-that is to say,capitalismservesessentiallyto allaythe sameworries,torments and restlessness to which the so-called religions used to provideanswers.The proof of the religious structureof capitalism-not only, as Weber believes, as a formation conditionedby religion, but as an essentially religious phenomenon-would still lead us, even today, astray into an immeasurableuniversalpolemic" [GS 6: 100]. Weber

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performedhis studies accordingto the methodologicalprincipleof causality,and thus he characterized the rationalethics of ascetic Protestantism as the preconditionfor the ethos of occidental societies: "The conditioningof the modern-capitalist-business of a 'business . the content of certain religious beliefs genesis mentality' [. .] by as he "a causal relation" And thus represents," says, [DpE 21]. capitalism's genesis follows, thoughWeberdoes not say it, preciselythe same kind of rationality-a logic of provenanceand guilt-that supposedlyfirst acquiresits privilegedmodernstatusin the rise of the "businessmentality"that Weber describes. The methodologicalapparatus is thatof rational appliedto the spiritof capitalism causalityitself-and is thusstructurally in its inspiration. Thismethodcannottherefore capitalistic provideanymeansof liberation from capitalism and its structures.The fact that Weber incorporatesa supplemental reverse causality in his analysis (turningProtestantChristianityinto a result of the No capitalisteconomic form) changes nothing in the specific form of his derivation.3 matter where the series of causation starts-and no matter how it is additionally legitimated-it securesthe economic formon the one side andthe religiousform on the other as fixed positions within a system of dependencies.Weberthus insists upon the derivationof economy andreligion from one another,but does not takeinto accountthe possibility that both might refer themselves to a third sphere that does not represent their condition-as aition or causa-but ratherpresentsthe space of their articulation. as well as politicalfutility Benjaminavoidsthis methodological aporiaandthe theoretical of Weber'sinterpretation both and Protestant by defining capitalism religiosity in the same terms. Both are relatively independentstructuresof relation with an identical function:namelythatof providingan answerto "worries,tormentsandrestlessness."In this characterization, and of Benjamin is careful to speak of "the religious structure" "anessentially religious phenomenon," withoutbasing this structure on anythingother thanthe conventionalconcept of religion, thatof the "so-called"religions. It is not his own concept of religion (a rigorousone undoubtedly relying on Cohen andthe tradition of Judaism) that underlies the notion of capitalism as an "essentially religious "FateandCharacter" is unambiguous on this: "Anorder,however,whose phenomenon." constitutiveconcepts are misfortuneand guilt, and within which there is no thinkable courseof liberation [...] suchanordercannotbe religious"[GS2.1.174].The "capitalist is a structure of belief and religion" thereforenot a religion, but rathera "cult-religion," behavior, of law and economy, pursuing, like every other cult within the context of myth, the sole aim of organizing"theguilt- and debt-nexusof the living." As religious,cultic, andculturalstructures haddone previously,the rulesof conduct under capitalism give an answer to what Benjamin calls "worries, torments and restlessness"-they systematize a deficit without permittingany escape from it. The functionof capitalismconsists in structuring the lack by explainingits provenanceand by giving instructionsfor its remediation.Capitalismis thus essentially etiology, the attributionof provenance and guilt. And more precisely, it is the positing of guilt, aetiotaxy. Like all "so-called religions,"capitalismfollows a logic that Benjaminhas made explicit in a sentence from "Fateand Character." Thoughthis sentence speaks of law andof legal decrees,it is valid (since law for Benjaminis an institutionof myth)for all of the componentsof mythandits corresponding rites:"Thelaw does not sentenceto be said of all ritual punishmentbut to guilt"[GS 2.1.175]. Thus it may correspondingly and cultic practices,and particularly of capitalismas a cult religion: they condemn to andrestlessness" torments guiltby positingguiltas thereasonfor a lack-for the "worries,
3. Cf. in this regard Weber'sclaim on the same page, where he speaks of "both causal Also wherehe indicates[190] thatboth a "materialist" and a "spiritualist causal relationships." interpretation of cultureand history" are "equallypossible."


of naturallife-and condemn to punishmentin order to make good on this debt and it. Capitalismis a system for the attribution of guilt as well as simultaneouslyperpetuate debt, just as all pagan cult religions that precede it, and just as Christianitythat goes along and identifies with it. The religious functionof capitalism,of the positing and maintainingof reasons,of the attribution of guilt and cause-of aetiotaxy-is not contradicted by the fact thatthe another of relied upon religious system for its form. development capitalism mostly has as in the occidental notes: a of Benjamin "Capitalism developed parasite Christianity countries(this mustbe shown notjust in the case of Calvinism,but in the otherorthodox Christianchurches as well), until it reached a point where the history of Christianity became essentially that of its parasite-that is to say, of capitalism" [GS 6: 102]. Christianitywould not have been able to transformitself into capitalismif capitalism had not been essentially Christian-"essentially religious,"and, as "cultreligion"and guilt religion, intenton filling up a lack. Thatwhich is Christianin capitalism,and that which is capitalist in Christianity,is its parasitic relation to guilt. Thus Benjamin's "TheChristianity of the Reformation did not favorthe growthof capitalism; summation: instead it transformed itself into capitalism" [GS 6: 102]. This transformationof Christianityinto capitalism, from religious form into economic form, can only have come aboutin such a way thatthe form of the one remainedpreservedin the form of the other.For both are "essentiallyreligious" forms, aetiotaxies, guilt forms positing the cause of a deficit.

Capital Guilt History,Structural Thatwhich is "already of capitalism" recognizablein the presentin the religiousstructure is shown by Benjaminin threefeatures-and a fourththat lies in the unrecognizability of its God. The first feature of capitalismis that it is a pure cult religion, "perhapsthe most extremethathas ever existed,"in which everything,thoughwithoutany special dogmas or theology, "only has meaning with immediate reference to the cult." The capitalreligious structureguaranteesan immediacy of meaning, of value and its source, an immediaterelationto its God, which assigns a ratingin the salvationeconomy to every andpermitsno one to leave the nexus of value stancetakenandevery actionundertaken of an economic index to and meaning installedby its rituals.The obsessive attribution detail of to the scales of and salvation-turns this every conduct-according capital structureinto a cult of meaning that is "extreme"in terms of both its universalityand intensity. It is a cult of the "immediate" significance of everyday activities, a cult in which every individualis not only the means but is also, as means, alreadyan end, a purpose,a value, and a meaning.Benjamindescribesthis immediaterelationto the God of the cult [GS6: 100]. Means andends, actionandmeaning, Capitalas "theconcretion" are in this "concretion" and to constitutea closed complex God, "growntogether" money is of semantictransaction. Everythingthathas meaning immediatelyidenticalwith what it means;the sign is immediatelythe signified andits referent.Since the realmof means has been thus deleted and substitutedwith that of immediate ends, this rite without transcendencepermitsonly the pure presence of what it inscribes.Temporaldistances arejust as excludedas semioticdifferencesbetweenthe elementsof this cult of meaning. The immediate presence, however, that is in concreto actualized with every move in this cult is that of a lack-of a debt and of guilt. Benjamin emphasizes, as the second feature of the capitalistrite, its "permanent duration." Since every relationbetween secularact and salvation-historical significance

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has been contractedinto the single point of theirimmediatecopresence,the rites of the salvation business offer an image of the undifferentiatedduration of the present. is the celebrationof a cult sans treve et sans merci.Thereis no 'weekday, "Capitalism no day that would not be a holiday in the terrifyingsense of the unfolding of all of its sacralpomp, of the most extremetension of the worshipper" [GS 6: 100].4 At this point a shortexcursusrecommendsitself to consider anothertext from the same time, a text that was likewise mainly inspiredby Max Weberand which likewise ErnstBloch's ThomasMunzer radicalizeshis connectingof capitalismandChristianity: as Theologian of the Revolution.Benjamin had entered into an amicable but critical relationshipwith Bloch even beforethe publicationof TheSpiritof Utopiain 1919, and Bloch's thirdbook, ThomasMinzer, provokedin 1921 some scathing remarksfrom entitled Bloch writesin Thomas Minzer, in the chapter Benjamin,who readits typescript. "On Calvin and the Ideology of Money":"It is ultimatelyjust the record-keepingthat keeps company with God, in orderto give flourish and figurationto His majesty-in of God as 'theLord'of Handel'smajestic sucha way thateven Calvin'soriginalsentiment music quickly let itself be reducedto the paradoxicalrelaxationof a dead Sunday"[TM 142]. Bloch's formulationhere-in combinationwith his commentaryon the "socialreligious homogeneityof life," "theeliminationof the tension towardthe beyond,"and "the tension between the state of sin and the state of origin"-makes it likely that (or at leastthis chapter)whenhe wrotein "Capitalism Benjaminalreadyknew "Miinzer" as Religion"thatunderthe conditionsof the capitalreligion "therewould be no day that would not be a holiday in the terrifyingsense [. . .] of the most extreme tension of the worshippers."But it is not only this observation that might be an echo of Bloch's one binds the two together,namely,the one at the formulations: an even more important in end of his chapteron Calvin, where Bloch writes thatthe Reformation"inaugurated the end not merelythe misuse of Christianity, butratherits complete desertionandeven elements of a new 'religion': of capitalismas religion and the true churchof Satan."5 The identity,however,of the decisive formulation"capitalismas religion"in the texts of Bloch and Benjamin can easily draw attentionaway from the differences in their overall tendencies. Though Bloch identifies capitalism as a religion (and indeed as a "so-calledreligion,"as Benjaminalso calls it), anddespitethe severityof his formulation, his judgment is nevertheless a moderateone: for the capitalism in question does not of Christianity into its representfor Bloch, as it does for Benjamin,the metamorphosis trueform,butrather the "complete desertion" fromit. ForBloch, thediagnosis"capitalism as religion"is a blatantmetaphorof the Calvinistic apostasy to the sataniccult of the profit rates of life. It thereforerepresentsa regressionto the merely pseudo-Christian schema of guilt, from which the Reformation-and that of Munzer above all-was meantto be the liberation.For Benjamin,on the otherhand, "capitalismas religion"is 4. UweSteiner hasplausibly [156-57] that,instead suggested of "sansreveet sansmerci" (as the editorsof the collectedworkshave readit), the textshouldread "sanstreveet sans without restandwithout merci": mercy. 5. In the revised versionthathas beenin printsince 1960, thefinal wordsreadinstead: " "introduced elements that as religion andthechurch ofcapitalism ofMammon ofa new'religion': that between andBlochlies in theirsuggestion [TM 143].A third pointof agreement Benjamin anddogmas intothelawsof theworkethic. intocodesof conduct transforms theology capitalism Bloch writes: "Thecontent,however,(of divine commandments)-theonly thing which butis instead to inthiscase-is nota statutized cantakereference church-dogma, understanding Andnothing thatis work ethicas thesolepurpose theGod-ordained of thejustification. precisely will to reason wishesto appear amidst sucha skewed Kantianism; onlythepre-rational beyond cultivate theworld seeksto appear to set value,to determine truth or to usetheinstrument of the mind" [TM141-42;cf:context].


the diagnostic formulaby which the essence of capitalismas well as of Christianityis defined.6 Bloch's sentence, however, on the "paradoxicalrelaxation of a dead Sunday," thattime assumesin the capitalistreligion, andit does character expressesthe particular so more forcefully-especially in light of Hegel's "Sundayof life" in which historyhas come to its end-than Benjamindoes when he says thatthere would be no "weekday" underCapitalChristianity, "no day that would not be a holiday."In Bloch's religion of capitalism,time has retiredinto its Sabbath,the day when God rests fromhis works and finds them good, and in which the meaning and the goal of humanwork have become one with the workitself-so thatmoney-makingis God. But this Sundayof Capitalisandhereinlies the paradoxof its relaxation-dead, becausein it the motionof production not only come to rest, but areeternallyput to rest in the expectation and self-production of ever the same product,the same Sundayas the ever-unchanging final day, in which all time contracts itself and simultaneously strives for its returnand for the further intensificationof its production.The permanentholiday of capitalism consists in the ritualeffortsto celebratethis holiday always once again and at the same time ever more festively. Capitalism'sever-lastingSunday is the perennialworkday of surplusvalue and surpluslabor.The time of capital,thuscharacterized, extendsthe end of historyinto the dead eternityof surplustime. In the time of capital,thereis no "now"thatmight not be simultaneouswith any other"now";thereis no "now"thatwould not be intentupon its returnin another,none thatwould not itself standunderthe law of returnsand appear as the mere revenantof another"now." This means, however,thatthe time of capitalis the time of the dead "now"as its own second coming as revenueand surplus,as re-now and over-now.It is the automatictime of a homogenouscontinuum,of which Benjamin it is "improperly says in "FateandCharacter" temporal." Every"now"owes itself another "now" and owes itself to another"now."And it itself is meanwhile only a deficient "now," replicatingitself in yet another"now"that is equally deficient. This formulaof a "now"owing to another"now"characterizes not only capitaltime and the time of the Capital Christianepoch, but the philosophical conception of time in the epoch from 6. IfBenjamin the as religion took Bloch thatstrongly (apossibility formula "capitalism "from whoseterminus ad quemis givenby theeditors as "the suggestsitselfhere),thenthefragment, 1921" 6: can middle be dated at the 1921 end at the earliest. In a [GS 690], of only of letterfrom November writesto Scholem: "Contact withBlochhasbeen,verycarefully, 27, 1921,Benjamin re-established. The wererecently handed ofMiinzer Machiavellistically naturally. complete proofs overto me,onhisfirstvisit,andI havestarted Briefe212-13].There had [Gesammelte reading" also however beenveryintenseconversations between andBlochlong before1921, Benjamin in Switzerland, and thusthesupposition wouldnotbe inadmissible thatat thattime especially hadalready launched this which wasthenonlylatertaken overbyBlochin his Benjamin formula, Munzer. Thematerial between Bloch'stextsandBenjamin's-including the connections, however, ambivalent between their authors andtherelated 's relationship question of thedating ofBenjamin sketch-should notbe addressed herewithout thequestion thishas to further opening of whether do witha historical in theemphatic sense-or whether it is not,as thepresent context problem a matter a question whether it suggests, of blameandindebtedness, of whooweswhatto whom, beBlochtoBenjamin orBenjamin toBloch-or maybe thatneither owestheotherfor an insight. There aresufficient sound andtherefore thequestion cannot arguments for all three suppositions, be decided. Andit is precisely thisundecidability andtheconsequent the necessity of suspending which isolates thetwotexts them judgment, fromoneanother, releasing fromtheguiltrelationship and turningthemin their independence (even if it is merelya possibleone) into historical The like all do not theirgenuinely historical texts, others, (which phenomena. acquire pregnancy is something thanthetruth content outof thehistory completely different of theirdiagnoses) of theirorigination, butrather by whichtheyreleasethemselves fromtheforce (or theweakness) andcometo standforthemselves. fromthishistory

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Aristotle to Hegel and beyond: it describes the negativity of the "now" that is now Andjust as the time of this epoch is "improperly alreadypast andpassedon into another. its history is improperlyhistorical, frozen in the reproductionof the evertemporal," unchanging schema of debt and debt-increasing compensations, consisting in the relaxationof a dead Sunday." "paradoxical cult of immediacy;it is both of these, Capitalismis not only a cult and a permanent both cult and permanent,only because it functionsby accruingguilt. This is the third of and the decisive trait,emphasizedby Benjaminin the essentially religious structure is probablythe first case of a this economic form and life form. He writes:"Capitalism cult thatproducesguilt ratherthanatonement.In this respect,its religious system exists in the downfall of a monstrousmovement.A monstrousconsciousness of guilt, unable to find atonement,reachesfor the cult not to find atonement,but ratherto makethe guilt universal-to hammerit into the conscious mind and finally and above all to include God Himself in this guilt, so as to finally interestHim in atonement"[GS 6: 100-01]. Withthis traitof the religion of capital,thatit produces,accumulates,and universalizes guilt, the fusion now emergeswith greaterclarity,of its economic,juridical-and to this extentmoral-and psychologicalaspects.Benjaminhimselfpointsto fusion as an aspect existing withinthe conceptof Schulditself, at the point when he speaksof the "demonic ambiguityof this concept"[GS 6: 102]. It is the ambiguity,namely,by which financial debts (Schulden)always serve as an index of legal, moral,andaffectiveguilt (Schuld)andby which everyguilt manifestsitself in debts,andeverydebtin guilt.This ambiguity is demonic,like all ambiguityfor Benjamin,becauseit offersthe vaguesign of something undecided or undifferentiated,with respect to which man has not yet secured his freedom-freedom lying in decision alone-and in which he thereforeleaves himself of etio-economic at the mercyof the forcesof provenance andsuccession,the domination In of the "demonic and the concept of Schuld Verschuldung, descendancy. ambiguity" thus itself attests the that it should and to continuallybegets itself. guilt guilt designate, Under the conditions of the capital- and guilt religion, there is no liberation.And thus it is all the more decisive for Benjamin'sanalysis that the extent and the logic of the logic thatprovidesfor the turbulencesaroundthe hollow this fusion be determined: centerof this religion.

"Monstrous consciousness of guilt,"Predestination, "theutterguilt of God" ForBenjaminthe starting pointfor the universaldominanceof guilt in recentChristianity of the world;this is indicatedby his referenceto Weber'streatises is the disenchantment of Ascetic Protestantism"). "Demystification" (presumablyabove all "TheWork-Ethic was introducedby Calvinism'smethodicalexclusion of sacramental magic as a means of salvation, as well as by the silent elimination of the sacramentof penitence in the form of private confession. Calvinism thereby withheld, according to Weber, all possibility of relief from the sinful conscience: "Themeans of a periodic 'workingoff' (Abreagieren)of an affectively chargedconsciousness of guilt were done away with" [DpE 124]. So Weberwrites, and Benjamin, in turn:"A monstrousconsciousness of guilt, unableto find atonement,reaches for the cult [.. .] in orderto make it universal [...]." The guilt becomes universalbecause every means of influencingit-whether by the devout, through sacraments, through the church, by God Himself-have been Theterrifying withdrawn. pointof the doctrineof predestination-whichis in factnothing but a doctrine of fate-lies precisely in the fact that its God died exclusively for the elect "to whom He had resolved in all eternityto contributeHis sacrificialdeath"[DpE abouthis stateof grace,andtherefore 123],butthatnot one of the elect can reachcertainty


must remain perpetually incarcerated in the consciousness of guilt. Weber's curt sentence-"No one could help him" [DpE 122]-characterizes the world of as one of ultimatemercilessness.This guilty consciousness is denied all predestination whether in confession, or in the ostentationof financial freedom from debts, or relief, even in the most zealous efforts at "sanctity by good works" [DpE 133]. Such a consciousness cannot even find liberationin God: for God, no matterhow much He may have sacrificed Himself for the guilt of the world, still remains indebted-and thereforeguilty-with respectto His own will and His decision. He essentially defines Himself as the one who does nothing but sacrifice Himself to Himself in all eternity. The doctrineof predestination statesas its final consequence(one thatis seldom stated) that God is not at liberty to reverse or suspend a decision that He once made. The doctrine thus claims that He owes it to Himself to carry out His decision-that He relates to Himself as to a causa sui, and that He is thus made guilty by His original resolve, guilty towardHimself and for Himself as His own determiningcause. A God who must inalterablyfollow His own decision is subject to a relation within Himself that is one of cause and result-therefore a relationship of guilt and indebtedness. Predestinationis predestinationthroughGod, because it is essentially predestination within God. A God who exists purely in His decision must behave with absolute indifferencetowardeverythingtemporalHe created,andHe thereforecannoteven come under considerationas the redeemer of this creation and must remain guilty, not as muchwith respectto everythingover which He decided,butfirstandabove all regarding His own decision. Under whatever guise one wishes to consider the God of predestination-that is, the God of self- andworldfoundationin will-He is a God who stands in a relation of guilt toward Himself. Since He is nothing but His relation to Himself, this God is sheer guilt in the sense of aftion, of causa, ratio andfundamentum as well as in the sense of debitumand of culpa. "Capitalism as religion"supposes "God as guilt." The climax of the guilt consciousness characteristic of CapitalChristianityis thus reachedin the conviction that God Himself is guilty, that He owes Himself to Himself and is therebyguilty of the guilt of His followers-of those who are indebtedto Him. God's guilt, as well as the resulting irremediabilityand unredeemabilityof the world and the universal guilt consciousness of His faithful, is no longer just a gloomy theologoumenon,nor is it a merely affective state that determinesthe entire emotional structureof the society of the capital religion, condemningthe history of Christianity and all of its practicesto be a historyof guilt, of the laying of blame, of retribution and restitution.Moreover,the process by which God becomes guilty-and indebted-is at the same time an economic fact, one, however, that has not been technically conceptualizedby Weber(who in any case uses the concept of guilt with conspicuous rarity)butrather by Marx.In the twenty-fourth chapterof the seventhsection of Capital, entitled "The So-Called OriginalAccumulation,"Marx comments on "the system of public credit, i.e. of state debts":"The public debt becomes one of the most energetic levers of original accumulation.As if by the wave of a magic wand, debt endows it into capital [...]" [K unproductive money with generativepower and thus transforms 782]. The public debt turnsmoney into capital,which is to say: into money thatrealizes itself and multipliesitself, always turningitself into more money-and thus into more money thanit actuallyis. But, in the case of capital,somethingthatis more thanit is is first of all the bare, though utterlyeffective, semblanceof capital;and second, it is the thoroughlyproductiveand over-productive capitaldebt, since, in the measurein which it is more thanitself, it is also less thanitself. "Hence,"accordingto Marx,"themodern doctrineis perfectlyconsequent,thata people becomes all the richer,the deeperit goes into debt. Public credit becomes the credo of capital [.. .]" [K 782]. Following this

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credo from seculareconomic creditinto the sacramental formulaof the metamorphosis in the and its implicit diagnosis thatcapitalismbecomes structurally religious phase of its "original"accumulation,Marx continues by suggesting a furthercontraction of economy andreligion:"Andwith the rise of nationaldebts,infidelityagainstthe national debttakesthe place of the sin againstthe Holy Spirit,for which thereis no forgiveness." What appearshere as a sacramentalprocess of an indebtingthat endows capital with of money into capitalas a generativeprocess productivityappearsin the transformation the relationsof commodities,value now within God Himself: "Insteadof representing itself as original with itself. It differentiates enters,so to speak,into a privaterelationship value from itself as addedvalue, just as God the Fatherfrom Himself as God the Son, even thoughboth are of the same age and in fact form only a single person.Only from the surplusvalue of ?10 does an advanceof ?100 become capital-and as soon as this has happened,as soon as the son has been producedby the father,and throughthe son, the fatheras well, theirdifferencevanishesagainandthey become one, ?110" [K 169].7 or "credited" The mechanicsof debt-of "advanced" money-compose the process by itself into surplusvalue-which is what defines value as value which value transforms is the process of a god's genesis out of something to begin with. This transformation that is not-a theogeny out of self-incurreddebts.And more precisely,it is a theogeny out of credit, a credit thatis itself drawnfrom unpaidlabor,exploitation,colonization, theft, and murder,legalized under the laws of the privileged. The general formula of in "the lapidarystyle" value "money-commodity-more money,"that is abbreviated as of interest-bearing capital "money-more money"; "money that is instantly more that is value greaterthan itself' is the productionformula of the "automatic money, of the generationof God out of nothing.Thusfor Marxthe "credo the formula subject," of capital" is not the tradesman'sfaith in capital. It is instead, as value's "private relationshipwith itself,"capital'sfaith in capitalitself, a credo quia absurdumthatcan be confessed only in the absence of what is believed in. It is a credo in which capitalGod the Fatherin unity with His son-confesses its own debit:I owe myself myself. Money,preeminentlyin the form of capital,is not only a god thatmakes guilty but in a more or less analytic-but also a guilty god. This is somethingthatis underscored always polemical-fashion in all of the works that Benjamin makes note of in his fragment.GeorgesSorel writesin his Reflexionssur la violence from 1908: "therightof debt-relationsrules every advanced capitalism" [207]. Adam Miller in his Twelve Speeches on Eloquencefrom 1816: "economicmisery [...] from now on-since every deed and every action has become expressed in money-pours itself over posterityin heavy and always heavier masses of debt" [68]. And Gustav Landauerin his Call to to an etymologicalsuggestionof FritzMauthner: Socialismfrom 1911 and 1919,referring "Theonly thing ever cast in a mould [der einzige Gegossene], the only idol [der einzige Gotze],the only god [dereinzige Gott],which humansever broughtinto bodilyexistence is money [Geld]. Money is artificialand alive; it begets money and money and money; it has all of the powers of the world. [... .] We are beggars and simpletons and fools, because money has become God, because money has become cannibal"[144-45].8 And finally Nietzsche, but not his Zarathustra,to which Benjaminalludes in the fragment but in the 1887 Genealogyof Morals, in particular with the conceptof the Ubermensch, HereNietzsche speaks its treatiseon "'Guilt,' 'Bad Conscience,' and RelatedMatters." of a moralization,of a backwardsturn and reversal in the concept of guilt, so that it the 'creditor' turns"against [Gliubiger]"-which is to say,againstGod:"Inthis process, thecreditreduction thepeculiar 7. I havecorrected (thusalso rectifying imposed) misprint as ?101. thecapitalsumis named in thetextof theedition cited,where to thispassagein his essay[seefootnote5]. also makes 8. UweSteiner reference



one would think simultaneouslyof the causa prima of man, of the beginning of the human race, of his progenitor[. . .]-of existence itself, which remains left over as valuelessness in itself (as the nihilisticturningaway from existence, as yearningtoward nothingness .. .) [. . .] until we stand at once before that paradoxicaland horrifying result [. . .], Christianity'sstroke of genius: God sacrificing Himself for the guilt of humans,God paying Himself off to Himself [... .]-the creditorsacrificingHimself to his debtorout of love (can one believe it?), out of love to his debtor!. . ." [N 2: 83233].9 The divine creditorsacrifices himself not only for his debtor,but actually owes him this sacrifice.If this thoughtis combinedwith the suspicionthatthis "creditor" may also be "existenceitself," then the conclusion is unavoidable:thatExistence itself, and the ultimateBeing, the summum ens, is nothingotherthanmaximaculpa, a particularly debitummaximum thatcannotbe restituted-because thereis no further, much less any higher,instanceof debt resolution. Primacausa,primaculpa-this is Nietzsche's diagnosis,andit makeshim evaluate as an "executioner's into nothingness"[N 2: Christianity metaphysics"and a "backdoor of asceticism and as nihilism. According to Marx, the formula 977], as rationalization of politico-economictheologyreads:God producesHimselfout of His own credit(never to be covered);accordingto Nietzsche, the formulaof moral-economictheology reads: God not only owes somethingto someone, but He also owes Himself to Himself-and this is the only way thatHe can "be"out of His "non-being." Evenif theconceptsof "capital" and"capitalism" aremissingin Nietzsche'sanalysis, there is little doubt-just as little as in Marx's christologicalcredit formula or in the inheritanceof debt observed by Adam Muller or Landauer'spolemical etymologythat the causal relation describedby Weber is insufficient in its determinationof the terms"Christianity" and"capitalism." Like the formulasofferedby Bloch andBenjamin, Nietzsche suggests an understanding of capitalism as a religion-and moreover as a of an religion guilt-and understandingof religion-more precisely the Christian religion-as capitalism.

Dead End History Out of the materialand the argumentsthus prepared by these authors,Benjamindraws the consequencethat "GodHimself' is being includedin this guilt, "in orderto finally interestHim in atonement.This atonementthuscannotbe expectedfrom withinthe cult itself, nor in the reformationof this religion, which would need to be able to hold onto [GS 6: 101]. In this something solid within the religion itself, nor in its renunciation" sentence the overall tendency of Benjamin'sreflections is indicatedby the refusal of threeconceivable alternatives. First, an atonement of the system of guilt that has assumed world-historical proportionsin the religion of capital is-despite the promise of redemptionthat this system never ceases to make-not possible withinthis religion, since God, the highest instance who alone would be able to offer the atonement,is subjectto guilt. Neither is any liberationto be expected from the merely immanentmotions within the system of guilt, as long as the constitutiveprincipleof this system exhaustsitself in being at fault and owing, and thereforeunfree.
9. Beyond Good and Evil is also cataloged (assigned with the number722) in Benjamin's list of bookshe had read;Nietzsche'stextappears in the vicinityof threeof the othertextsthatare cited in "Capitalism as Religion" [GS 7.1.477]. Also, since The Genealogyof Moralsis introduced as "the supplementand clarification" to Beyond Good and Evil, it is plausible to assume that both of these texts were knownto Benjamin.


Atonement is, secondly, not to be expected from a reformationof this religion, because every reformation-which would necessarily amountto a reformationof the effortsas they were undertaken, Reformation-and all reformatory Protestant especially in Benjamin's time, by social-democraticand socialist politics would have to find a starting pointin an elementof the capitalcult andits economicandpsychosocialstructures thatwould be free of guilt-or which mightat least have some prospectfor the liberation fromguilt.But thereis no suchelement.Even the Marxistvariantof socialismrepresents, a social in Benjamin'sestimation(which is closely relatedto thatof GustavLandauer), and economic form resulting from the dynamic progression of debts in capitalism. Landauer titles it in his Call to Socialism,referringto the socialism "Capital-socialism" Marx: is stunned by such exemplary nonsense, but it is "One prognosticated by Karl Marx's real unquestionably opinion: that Capitalismdevelops socialism out of and The socialist mode of production'blooms'out of capitalism itself, completely totally. of 'blooming,' [.. .]."And in orderto clarifythe theologicalconnotationof this metaphor Landauercontinues: "Marxism-the absence of all spirit, the paper blossom on the beloved thorn-bushof capitalism"[41-42]. Socialism is supposedto produceitself out of the automatismof capitalism's own motion, and thus the burningthor-bush, the bitter emblem of the theophanyof capital, is for Landauerthe only place where the socialism projectedby Marx can blossom. Benjaminuses the same argument,placing the accent on the structureof indebtingthat grantsthe continuitybetween capitalism and socialism. He interpretsthe historical process that transformsthe one mode of productioninto the other as a debt progressionaccordingto the metaphorsof interest and compoundinterest,and thereby interpretshistory in the age of capital religion as debt history.The socialism projectedby Marxcan only become a more advancedstate in the debt history of capital, since, as Benjaminwrites, "the capitalismthat does not turnback will become socialism by way of the simple and compoundinterestthat are the functionsof debt"[GS 6: 101-02]. If an end to the history of guilt accumulationis possible neither out of its own nor by its reform,then the only furtherpossibility of a liberationfrom internalstructure this history seems to lie in its renunciation.Such a notion depends on the idea that it froma positionexternalto the guilt structurewouldbe possibleto utterthe renunciation or else thatthe renunciationwould be able to introducea division within the structure. Renunciation as well, however, must fail to accomplish the atonement, because no renunciationcould avoid having the cult as its cause and speakingthe language of the cult, which is precisely that of accusation and indictment. And therefore even the renunciationwould remainguilty before this religion and indebtedto it. Renunciation remainsan ambiguousrelationship(demonicallyambiguous,as Benjaminmight say), one that still participatesin myth while declaringits independencefrom it. As long as of guilt retainsthe slightestbit of dependence-guilt is dependencepar the renunciation excellence-the renunciationwill only intensify the guilt and will fail to allow any liberationfrom it. If these three alternativesto the guilt relationonly perpetuatethis relation,then a liberationis not to be expected from within its system, nor from outside of it. Neither inside nor outside of it would a historybe possible thatis not guilt history.The formula of this doubleexclusion-"neither within nor without"-contains a hint, however,as to where this sought-afterliberationmay neverthelessbe possible. If it is possible neither within the guilt relationsof the capitalreligion nor withoutthem, then it is possible in a place-and only here-where these relations have reached an extreme that belongs neitherto these relationsthemselves nor to their outside. The possibility of liberation from guilt can thus only be located at the very extremeof guilt. This extremewould be the outer- and innermostlimit upon which guilt is no longer itself and yet is nothing otherthan itself: where it is-as guilt-freed of itself.

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Ruination of Being

Benjamin'sremarksmove througha descriptionof the aporiasof guilt in orderto reach the most extreme aporia, in which the process of guilt accumulationcollapses upon itself, collapsing in such a way thatthe system thathad maintainedthis process is itself includedin its ruin.Havingdismissed every way out of the bind of history,reformistas well as renunciatorysolutions, Benjaminwrites: "It lies in the natureof the religious movementcalled capitalism,to hold out untilthe very end, untilGod has finally become utterlyguilty-to the pointwherea conditionof the worldis achievedthatis totaldespair, something which is precisely hoped for. This is the historically unprecedented,the unheard-of character of capitalism, thatreligionis notthereformof beingbutits ruination: the expansion of despairto the religious condition of the world-a state from which salvationis to be expected. God's transcendencehas fallen. But he is not dead;he has been includedin the destiny of man" [GS 6: 101]. The point at which "Godhas finally become utterlyguilty and utterlyindebted"correspondsto the place of exposed credit in Marx's structural analysis of capital,God being in both instancescapital:God is the uncoveredcredit from which capital takes its start-and the uncovered surplusvalue that it never ceases to producein every cycle of the circulationof goods, withoutever Absolutesurplusvalue,absolute being ableto tie this valueto anyactualvalue-equivalent. but This same "completeindebting is but and God debts. nothing capital, nothing credit, of God"also corresponds,in Nietzsche's Genealogyof Morals,to God's takingover the debts of His faithful, to the godforsakennessof God in His "eli, eli, lama sabachtani," and to the godlessness of God in the world history of His credit.The process by which God is "made utterly indebted" is not restricted to a process internal to Him as a idea: it makes transcendenceitself guilty and transcendentbeing or a transcendental in the process of God's despair,and it is at bringsaboutthe ruinof all transcendentalia of this despairuntilit becomes "the the same time the "expansion," the universalization This statedetermines stateof the world." destiny," everydetailof every"human including every force and institutionin which humanstake part,determiningthem all as guilt, as despairand as loneliness. The system of capitalistreligion is pantheisticto the exact point that it is schizo-theistic:the world and every humanin it is God in His despair,i. e. in His split from Himself. It is for this reason that Benjamincan speak, in a pathosladen astrologicalmetaphor,of the "passageof the planet of man throughthe house of despair in the absolute loneliness of his course" [GS 6: 101], referring thereby to Nietzsche's Ubermenschand his astrologicalimages. This loneliness and despairmay well be understood with referenceto the relevantdescriptionsin Weberof the emotional devastationimposed by Calvinism, to the self-tormentsof conscience under ascetic characterization of despairas a ideals as describedby Nietzsche, and to Kierkegaard's mental illness unto death.10Both solitude and despair, however, are the structural consequencesfrom the universalizedsystem of debt and thereforeof guilt in relationto the causaprima-that is, guilt in itself-and emergebothfroma historywhose "ultimate category"is guilt, and out of a political-economictheology thatculminatesin "theutter guilt of God."If God himself becomes guilty-along with everythingin economy and society, history, language, and morality that is structuredaccording to this highest has "fallen,"and deeperthanAdam, whose instance-then indeed His "transcendence" fall was still ordainedand caughtby a God. God Himself has fallen from Himself in an
10. In the treatise by the same title, Kierkegaard defines "sicknessunto death" as despair "worries" in his sketch as "the mental illness belonging to the epoch of Benjaminspeaks of capitalism" [GS 6: 102]. ThoughKierkegaardremains unnamed in Benjamin'sfragment, he leaves traces throughout:in the referencesto despair,fear, and loneliness, no less than in the passages about guilt andfate, as well as in the "demonicambiguity."


withoutcompare,drivingHim to division anddespair,severingHim from auto-apostasy His own community,isolating Him even from Himself. Despair would not be able to become "the state of the world"at the end of history,if this despairwere not also the despairof God in everythingthat defines itself throughHim. The isolation within this must also be God's isolation, the isolation of a God who no longer has "everything" anythingin common with Himself and who has lost even the minimal company with does not save Himself. That He is not dead, this God of fallen and split transcendence, Him, since He "hasbeen includedin the destiny of man"-and therebycollapsed into a networkof guilt that is worse than death. What,then, does it mean for God to "finallybecome utterlyguilty"-die endliche Gottes?It cannotmean thatHe is the primemover and cause of a vollige Verschuldung deficient creation.In this case, He would be capable of other more ideal creationsand would thus become guilty of not correspondingwith His own ideal. The accusation againsta God who does not live up to His abilities is an accusationmade againsta God who is guilty only in part-and in partinnocent or at least capable of innocence. This guilty God. "ForGod to become utterlyguilty" chargethusdoes not addressan "utterly" can only mean thatHe is guilt in and of Himself, that He is guilt in itself as a guilt that has not yet been and never can be resolved;thatHe is guilty, responsibleand liable for Himself as the one who is not only incomplete,unsuccessful,or mistaken-but who is utterlylacking.If being guilty meansbeing the cause of a nonbeing,then "thebecoming utterlyguilty of God" means that He is the cause of His own nonbeing.He can be this or from time to time, cause not by withholdingbeing from Himself merely arbitrarily but ratheronly if he cannot but withhold it, not having it at His disposal and thus not being his being. God's guilt must lie, if it is to determineHim in His entirety,in His being His own nonbeing-and thus in not being. Only out of this highly paradoxical reason,a reasonthatannihilates itself, is Benjaminableto reachthe most fully expounded and the strictest conclusion of his sketch: that "the historical unprecedentednessof capitalism"lies in its being a "religion that is no longer the reform of being but its ruination." Religious capitalismis the structureof thought,experience and action that demonstratesthat being, set up as a capital value, is infinitely more-and therefore infinitely less-than it is; thatbeing is somethingtoto coelo otherthanitself; thatit is a ruinedbeing, a being split off from itself and splitting,ruiningitself, and that it is the event of the devastationof being, its annihilation. This devastationof being in capitalism, in Capital Christianityand in all of the structures,institutions,discourses, and nondiscursiveexperiences affected by it, is, as Benjamin emphasizes, "historicallyunprecedentedand unheardof" (das historisch Unerhorte).It is not only a singularevent withoutprecedent,but it is a literallyunheard of andunheardevent,one thatresistshearingandevery otherdistinctsensoryexperience and every concept. Only by being "historicallyunheardof' can capitalismat its zenith turninto a historical,a singularevent, and be called historicalin the emphaticsense of thatwhich escapes sense and the senses, perceivedby no one, inaccessible and unheard in whichexperienceconfrontssomethinginexperienceable. even to itself-an occurrence The ruinationof being broughtaboutby the CapitalChristiancult of guilt, the ruination of the value of all values, the self-annihilation of the summum ens-reaches the extreme in be historical," point the mythical nexus of guilt, which can only called "improperly and rupturesits network:the devastationof being is the opening of history. Unheardof as the ontological ruin is, since no being can be attributed to it, it can offer itself neitheras an empiricalnor as an ideal object of knowledge.The splittingin and "a secret,"because an entitythathas God, the ruinationof being, is "inaddressable" been explodedinto discontinuouspieces can have no access to itself andbarsall external access. ThereforeBenjamin,after indicatingthe three traitsof "thereligious structure

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of capitalism"that are recognizable in the present, needs to add the fourth trait of capitalism,the unrecognizabilityof its God. "Itsfourthtraitis that [capitalism's]God must be kept secret. Only in the zenith of His guilt may He firstbe addressed.The cult is celebratedbefore an unripedivinity,every representation and thoughtof it damages the secret of its fruition"[GS 6: 101]. Until its maturityis achieved-which may mean the state of its separationfrom "natural" connections and above all from "itself'-the of the divinity of the cult of guilt must be kept secret in orderto preservethe "mystery" ripeningprocess. This "secret"can be none other than the secret of His guilt, of His A structural secret,whichmustcarryits own forgetting deficitary being andHis nonbeing. or "repression" alongwith it, it belongsfor Benjaminnot only to the realmof ontological, theological, and political-economic thinking, but also to the most advanced "psychological"theory that he was aware of: to that of psychoanalysis.IILike Marx, andWeber,Freudtoo is countedamongthose who Nietzsche, presumablyKierkegaard, sanctionthe religion of guilt in their theories-instead of recognizing in its course the elements of its demise. The "Freudian theory"thereforefalls underBenjamin'sverdict that it is "completelycapitalisticallyconceived" and belongs "to the ruling priesthood of the cult." Benjamindeclares: "The repressed,the sinful imagination,is, by a most profound analogy that remains to be illuminated, capital itself, and the hell of the unconscious draws interest on it" [GS 6: 101]. If this comment is combined with the mythological note on "Pluto,"the god of the underworld-of hell, the unconsciouswho is also "thegod of wealth,"then it suggests thatGod is unconscious.He is a sinful imagination and even the most sinful one, the first and most deeply repressed idea consisting in nothing but guilt and failure, in nothing but absence and nothing but offerno possibleobjectfor consciousness.Benjamin's nothingness-and wouldtherefore assessmentcould indeed find supportin the Freudiantheoremof originaryrepression, as well as in the ethno-psychologicalmyth of the murderof the primalfather,a murder leadsto anunconscioussense of guiltthatmotivatessubsequent cultural which,repressed, accomplishments.But just as in the case of Marx and of Nietzsche, Benjaminfinds in Freudian psychoanalysis the structure of the capital divinity indicated-and simultaneouslydisavowed.In the Freudian diagnosis-at least as Benjaminwould have it-the concept of guilt and the process of its accumulationare consolidated as the indissolublefundament of all social andreligiousrelations.Such a conceptiondoes not, however,allow for the possibility thatthis guilt may become eliminableas soon as it is made absolutein God, in capitaland its religion.

Ruinationof Being, Reversal Benjaminmaintainsthatit correspondsto the essence of capitalismas religion to "hold out to the very end, until God has finally become utterly guilty, to the point where a conditionof the world's total despairis achieved, somethingwhich is still being hoped
11. GershomScholem notes, very dryly, in WalterBenjamin:The Story of a Friendship:

sat(1917/1918) ina seminar onFreud AtthattimeFreud's taught byHdberlin. "Benjamin theory wasBenjamin's elaborated The of drives topic for anextensively research-presentation. judgment was a dismissive one"[75]. Thepresentation thatScholem passedin Benjamin's presentation tohasbeenlost,andonly it bepossibletosayhowBenjamin fromit would actually refers "passed on Freud's Scholem's claimof the "dismissive judgment" theory of drives. apodictic judgment" does indeedcorrespond withthe sharptone of Benjamin's but characterizations elsewhere, 'sassessment beunfair Scholem would totheacknowledged historical ofpsychoanalysis importance " (as inNietzsche's one in theFreudian "unconscious He recognized Ubermensch) for Benjamin. the the era the zenith of of of signatures of guilt.


for" [GS 6: 101]. Whatis hoped for, therefore,is the "achievedconditionof despair"achievedhere andnow, in Benjamin'stime, in the historicalinstantof his analysisof the cult of guilt-in a moment that is simultaneouslythe one in which capital-Christian "God has become utterly guilty" at "the end" of the cult. But if this end were thus alreadyreached, then the "hope"that Benjamin speaks of would have no object and would be unable to "still"direct itself-"precisely" now-toward this end. Since this this despairmust"still"continue hope, however,directsitself in the end toward"despair," to displace the end from its end, splittingthe "now"of the historicalmoment,rupturing the state of the world and the God who has mergedwith it. This division, the despairof or reversal God in His "finalutterguilt,"leads thereforein the end to the "turn-around" (Umkehr)namedthree times in Benjamin'ssketch. It is a reversalthat is not metanoia or penitence, but rather a turning away from guilt that emerges out of guilt's own immanentmotion. Umkehris guilt's "own"turningagainst itself. Benjamin does not comment furtheron this motion of despair's reversal, but from the logic developed already(of the "completeguilt of God"andof the "zenithof His guilt"andthe "ruination of being"), the formal shape of this motion can be sketched: God is guilt in itself; He is guilty of Himself. Which is to say: He owes Himself Himself, He is still lacking, is not yet God, and can only be God so long as He actually is not God. He is, therefore,guiltily, His own "not"and nonbeing.As this "nonbeing" however,He is also the "nonguilt." If God is nothingbut guilt, then He is the cause of a "nothing" (of a lack, a defect, a deficiency, a mistake), but, as such a cause, which is itself a "nothing"(a lack, a mistake), He is thereforethe "null cause of a void," "the vain and inane reason of a 'nothing"'(nichtigerGrundeines Nichts)-and thus neithercause nor guilt.'2 andnothingbutthis cause, God mustbe just as much To be the cause of a "nothing" He must be guilty withoutguilt,being withoutbeing, nothing the cause as no cause at all. without nothing-and even a nothing without the "without"of a nothing. He is lifestatesthatguiltis "the 12. Heidegger's fromBeingandTime[?? 58, 62], which definition eines Nichts),is not citedherejustfor the sakeof its Grund null cause of a void"(nichtiger in thetext to theissuethatconcerns to a proximity alsoattests This definition accuracy. Benjamin in lightof its be belittled it maybe, cannot in question. though punctual definition, Heidegger's cannot And withtheseunfinished material ofBenjamin. Heidegger's definition thoughts differences both authors. In the the the importance be ignoredhere,considering guilt for of of problem the limitsof its owncontext, formulais not usedwithin Heidegger's analysis,however, present to the material and thisfor reasons itself.Amongthesereasons(whichcannotbe pertaining one shall be namedwithout their in here further anything approaching full extent), presented cannot constitution as the existential of being(Dasein) (Schuldigsein) guiltiness argumentation: andat the maintain " ina waythatwould bedistinguished terminological precision bya "nothing thatthese sametimebe differentiable lack,or absence (assuming ofprivation, fromothermodes or of a god).Theonewhois despairing modeswerethoseof a worldcondition maybe orfearful his thathe also experiences thepossibility butthisdoesnot in anywayexclude his own "not," theimplicit whether needto be tested, It would lack,or rapture. positivization beingas privation, and existential between in thedistinction nothingness (whichis to be achieved of the "nothing" even Time and in hinders thenothingness considering from absence) Heidegger Being of simple is led soberthought, a completely Thisthought, thethought (Ent-schuldung). of an ex-cusation not would sentiment. neither Benjamin presumably by 'faith"nor by any kindof confessional the and a second to count Nietzsche, Freud-among havehesitated Heidegger-likeMarx, for in the drawn conclusions The cult" the of of Benjamin by way specific guilt. of "ruling priesthood to theHeidegger at anyratehavebeenquitedistant of BeingandTime.The essaywould present is Nietzsche's in Heidegger's is different, situation however, bearingthe title "Who reflections structure a textthatspeaksof the temporal Zarathustra?," of revengeand thepossibilityof
undAufsitze 102-03]. [cf. Vortrage redemption

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but no naturalone, and He is God-but before and beyond every causa prima and causa sui. God, thoughtof in the extremeof His despairat "thezenith"of the cult of capital, is a God who owes Himself to Himself as the one who is at fault for Himself. He is therebyHis own "nothing"-and in this nothing also His own not-guilt:if He is guilty of Himself, then as His own cause; and if this guilt is His own "nothing,"then as the ongoing absenceof this cause, as the uncauseandas the anetiologicalfact of freedoma freedom this side of guilt and one that first opens up the possibility to be guilty and allows for a freedomin which guilt is no longer subjectto restitutionbut to forgiveness. And likewise capital: it is advance, surplus value beyond the value by which it would be able to representinvested labor and raw materials;it is inequivalence and credit-debt.It is mere debit, so that the creditorbecomes the total debtor in his most nakedpoverty,unableto coverhimself with a banknote or bill-and which is thusneither creditnor debit. The logic of this reversal-of "thecapitalismthatturnsaround"[GS 6: 101], also evoked in the metaphorof the "zenith"of the accumulationof guilt-clearly cannot follow any prescriptivemoralitythatwould seek to hold the "turn around" to some kind of ideal of behavior.Such a moralityis of the kind thatlies at the base of Christianity in its capitalistmode, and,as such, as an ethics of absoluteowing in the formof obligations to be fulfilled, it would be a system of absoluteguilt-but never its absoluterestitution. The reversalmust insteademergefrom guilt itself, and it can do so only at the pinnacle where it separatesfrom itself andturnsagainstitself. At this point, worldhistorystrikes against a "nothing"upon which guilt, this history's "ultimatecategory,"gives outalongwiththishistoryitself. Guilthistoryis thusa motionin nihilo-into the nothingness of guilt and its divinity-just as it emerges ex nihilo, out of the nothingnessof God and the "nothing" of guilt.

The Logic of the Recoil Already as early as 1918, Benjamin must have been familiarwith HermannCohen's Logic of Pure Knowledge. Cohen's text had broughtthe ex nihilo to new esteem by using an operational'nothing'as the starting pointin whathe called "thelogic of origin": "On the detour of the 'nothing,' judgment representsthe origin of the 'something"' [LrE84]. In the logic of the indefinite (of the aoriston), in the ontology of the infinite (of the dpeiron and the anhypotheton[LrE 86-88]), and in the mathematicsof the infinitesimal[LrE89-90], it is the in- thatserves (like the alphaprivativumand the me in Greek)as the index for a "nothing" in which the "something" of being can first find its determination. In this context,Cohenrehabilitates the "infinite judgment"in orderto make it pure logic's originalmeans of knowledge.Withoutreferenceto empiricaldata, thisjudgmentdefines a "something" of something by the negation(or even annihilation) that(it) is not. This negationdoes not referto some particular thatprecedes "something" it, but ratherto a "nothing"-it is an original negation that remainsindependentfrom any position. In the infinitejudgment,A = non-B always meansabove all:A = non-nihil. The infinitejudgmentconsists in the annihilationof a "nothing," in the repulsionof a of a "nothing" can the "something" of privation.Only by this immemorialannihilation being be achieved.Thusthe infinitejudgment(whichplaces a "not"againstnothingness) containsthe preontologicalorigin of being. "So it is," writes Cohen, "thatthe so-called (but by no means thus understood)'nothing' becomes the operativemeans by which each and every 'something' in question is broughtinto its origin, and therebyfor the first time actuallybroughtinto productionand determination" [LrE89].


If God has, as Benjaminsays, "finallybecome utterlyguilty"by a guilt thatbrings aboutthe emptyingand the nothingnessof God, then it also bringsabout,in its extreme, the annihilationof His guilt and His nothingness:It operatesand effectuates,according to the logic of Cohen's infinitejudgment, the annihilationof an infinite privationand opens the origin ex nihilo of a God who is otherthan the God of guilt; it inauguratesa of being"at the end of historythatis somethingotherthanguilt history.The "ruination the cult of capitalcan be understoodas the ruinationof a privativebeing in guilt. It is a destructio destructionis,the infinite judgment in its theo-economic form, by which a "nothing"annihilatesitself in orderto open the possibility of a "something"that is as Justas in the Trauerspielbuch, where he transforms yet withoutpositive determination. Cohen's purelylogical categoryof origin into a historicalone, Benjamin,alreadyin the as Religion,"turnsCohen'soperational"nothing" of logical early sketchon "Capitalism in into a historical which and turn back "nothing" knowledge capitalism Christianity motion happensno longer as a logical selfinto theirhistoricalorigin. Theirretrograde annihilation,but ratheras an economic self-annihilationof the guilt system-as its to its originin the differential historicalreduction of the "not-guilt" andthe "not-nothing." of studies on Kant as well as his work on the art theory the early Romantics Benjamin's madehim familiarwith speculationson the creatioex nihilo, with theoriesof annihilation and their connections to the mathematicsof the infinitesimaland differentialcalculus. a specialization in calculus Scholemwas at thattimepursuing friendGerhard (Benjamin's as a part of his study of mathematics.)Meanwhile, Benjamin was also learning the he also learned,a shorttime later, doctrineof the self-emptyingof God in the Zimzum; throughthe presentationon Maimonidesin Salomon Maimon'sLife History, aboutthe of God and His existence withoutexistence. Injust this theoryof the negative attributes sense Benjaminargues,in his theoremof the "Theological-PoliticalFragment"(from about the same time as "Capitalismas Religion") that the contradictory tendencies of profane and messianic history make up a "world politics," "whose method must be called nihilism" [GS 2: 204]. This methodicalnihilism is the political complementof of Cohen's theory of judgment.The turn-around the operational,methodical"nothing" as is a repetitionof the origin.13 Religion" projectedby "Capitalism

Timeas a Stormof Forgiveness The "utterguilt"of capital's divinity is thus the ultimatemomentof a jump back to its the "not"of guilt. At the origin, the origin where it becomes the "not"of a "nothing," of does not rule, butthatof guilt's annihilation. Outof the Christianity law of retribution of in the Messianism the its self-devastation,emerges forgiveness.If, however, capital, annihilationof guilt is the infinitejudgmentthatthe capitalcult carriesout uponitselfof guilt-then the forgiveness and if thisjudgmenthas always belonged to the structure within the system of guilt and must have been even here always operative, practiced retribution itself. This forgiveness must extend through all of guilt history, thus it into a double history,a history of guilt and guilt's deletion. Neither of transforming reduced to the other,but they must neverthelessboth relate to each other. these can be if the guilt The decisive relationbetween them can once again only lie in a "nothing": history is precisely a history of annihilation-as "thedevastationof being"-then it is at the same time the history of the annihilation of history. This immanent recoil 13.A moreextensive treatment (alsowithdifferent emphases) of thiscomplex of theinfinite, andBenjamin canbefoundin mystudy andtheintensive between theinfinitesimal Kant,Cohen, "Intensive Sprachen."

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accomplishes itself and becomes history in a sense that is contraryto that of "guilt history": It comes about not as reform or reformation, but as the true revolution eliminating at every moment the traces of the guilt system. The nothing of this is time itself as the time to come. counterhistory Under the dominationof the category of guilt there can be no experience of time, because in it all times are synchronized according to the schema of ever-identical causationof ever-identical guilt. Guiltknows no time andno history.Benjaminclarifies this in a fragmentthat depicts the institutionof law in its relationto time. Out of their the forces of law demandthat even misdeeds of the distantpast interestin retribution, should be judged and prosecuted,"reachinginto the succession of distantgenerations. is basically indifferentto time"[GS 6: 97]. To the institutionsof law, which Retribution time is only an impediment,a burdensomedelay in the execution insist on retribution, of theirintentions.ForBenjaminthis delay in carrying out the punishment has the dignity of an independentethicalphenomenon.Forhim the time of delay between misdeed and retribution-and especially if this retribution is expected of the Last Judgment-is not an "emptytarrying." It does notbelongto the worldof law,ruledby retribution indifferent to time,butrather to the moralworldof "forgiveness." Time,to the extentthatit intervenes as delay within the orderof retribution, is forgiveness. It is not a function of law, but rathera figure of justice. When Benjamin writes that the moral world of forgiveness finds "its most powerful figurationin time" [GS 6: 98], he thereby says nothing less thanthattime itself is moral,thatit is justice itself, thatit is the forgivenessof guilt and in this forgivenessthe annihilation of a historythattakesguilt as its "ultimate category." Cohenhad written,in his Ethics of the Pure Will:"Thebasic conceptformingthe proper kernelof fate may be recognizedin the concept of guilt. The Ate extends itself across a generation. . ." [ErW363]. In his sketch, Benjaminleaves the Ate to a vain struggle againsttime, since for him, time is the forgivenessof guilt: "Thetime in which the Ate pursues the criminal is [. . .] the thunderouslyloud oncoming storm of forgiveness before the ever-approaching court-against which it can do nothing"[GS 6: 98]. The timeof deferral-and moreprecisely,time as deferral-is notonly the irreducible distance between guilt and retribution. It is also the distance, likewise irreducible,between the judgment and its implementation, between the moral predication and its actual completion,between the constativeutteranceof a judgmentand its execution. The cessation or suspensionin judgment(and indeed of divine Judgmentmost of all) is the theme of a 1919 essay by GerhardScholem, the friendof Benjamin'syouth. The essay was entitled "OnJonahand the Concept of Justice,"whose earlierversion, called "Notes on Justice,"Scholem had already sharedwith Benjamin in October of 1918.14 The considerationsof this text made a powerfulimpressionon Benjamin;in it Scholemwrote:"For justice in its deepestsense meansthis andnothingelse: that,though it is indeed permissible to judge, the execution of a judgment remains as something entirely different.The unambiguousrelationof judgmentto its executive function (as the actual legal order)is suspendedin the delay of execution. This is what God does with Nineveh"[T 526; also 336]. Because the delay in the executionof the sentencealso affects God's Judgment,Scholem is able to drawthe following consequences:"Justice is the idea of the historical annihilationof the divine judgment [ . .]. Justice is the indifferenceof the Final Judgment:This means thatjustice unfolds from within itself the sphere in which the coming of the Last Judgmentis infinitely postponed"[T 527; also 336]. This idea of justice-as "the carryingout of a not carryingout" [T 341] of God's Judgment-lies at the bottom of Benjamin'scharacterization of historical and ethical time. Time is nothingbut the delay of the JudgmentDay whose coming would 14. Cf.Gershom Scholem, Diaries,1917-23 [T 401].


annihilatethe Nineveh of the Creation.This delay saves the Creation-only hereinlies annihilation in a way thatexactlyfollows the "logic of origin" itsjustice-by annihilating in the infinitejudgmentas Cohenoutlinedit: as the annihilating repulsionof a "nothing." Time is the span-virtually infinite-between the sentence, condemning to punishment,and its execution, turningthe sentence into deed. Time, and thereby the medium of everything that lives, is thus not the act (which was requiredeven for the constitutionof time as Kantconceived it throughthe auto-affectionof the spirit),just as little as it is a performativeact by which consciousness operates (whetherit does so immediately or with some hesitation). Instead, time is the noncarrying out, the afformative15 cessationin the execution-and thereinalso the annihilation aperformative, of thejudgmentitself in its illocutionarydemand.Time as delay is the suspensionof the sentence. It is not an act (whether it be of human or divine will), and what happens within it is not boundby the principleof action to pass througha chain of effectuations in orderachieve a presetpurpose.This is because every legal order,whetherimplicitly or explicitly, presupposesprecisely this principle:that everythingthat happenscan be tracedback to intentionsthat would lend the occurrencethe status of an action. And, since law to this extent propoundsthe schemaof causalityand the causalityof the will, its orderdefines itself (in principleas well as in its particular forms) as the instancethat is the most deeply struckby time as the suspensionof action, by the delay of execution andthe epoche in performance. structure of law and its logic Precisely this fundamental of retribution is what is meantto be unhinged-the hinges being those of the concept of action-in Scholem's and Benjamin'sreflectionson thejustice of time.16ForBenjamin and Scholem, time is the deactivationof the carryingout of sentence and thereforethe suspensionof the strictconnectionbetween sentence and execution-and thereforethe disenabling of the sentence itself, and finally, the disassembly of the entire nexus of actiondefininglaw-makingandjudicial power.Time, once conceived in its strictethical significance,is the coming aboutof justice, which, extendingthroughevery legal order, would disenable all of them. The orderof execution, whetherlinguistic or actual, has always founded the legal order by the causality of violence. This is the order that is deactivatedby time's irreducibledelay, which is valid for all acts. As nonexecution and nonaction-this is how Benjamin elsewhere characterizes the revolutionarystrike [GS 2:1:184]-and as nonactivity,time is the "nothing"that separates the sentence from its performance and erases both. Time is the a-thetic happening,to which both are exposed and in which both are suspended.The "now"of this time of nonexecutionis the an-etiological and an-archicsuspensionof every time sequence, linear as well as circular.It is the breakingoff of succession between cause and effect. It is the ongoing crisis of the exchangeof equivalentgoods. It is the deletion not only of the sentence but also of the guilt. This is because it is not only the not
15. The afformative, in the sense developed in the essay "Afformative,Strike," is a event that is not the act of a linguistic subjectwithinthe horizonof a convention preperformative or consensus concerning speech acts, but is rathera literal parapraxis in the strict sense that it offers the verypossibility of such a horizon, while at once breakingthis horizon and shifting it. Theafformativeevent is, in both senses of the word, the ex-positionof the horizonof the "act" as it has been classically-and thoroughlyontologically-conceived. The afformativeis the act's unconditional is prerequisiteand at the same time the deactivationof the act, insofaras an "act" consideredto be a resultof thepositingof a constituting, or collective. egologicalsubject,individual 16. Thissuspensionis misrecognized as an "absolute ifjustice is characterized performative" or as a "pureperformativeact," which is what occurs in one of the most significant of recent Benjaminstudies,JacquesDerrida's "Forceof Law" [78-79]. Dealing with the same complexof Derrida's reading,see also my study "Afformative, Strike," and, problems,but independentfrom specifically referringto Derrida, "Linguaamissa."

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carryingout of the sentence: as the breakingoff of every consequence, it is also the deletion of the guilt by which the misdeed pursues its doer. Time is the "storm of and "thisstormis not only the voice thatdrownsout the criminal'sscream forgiveness," of terror, it is also the handthatexpungesthe tracesof his misdeed-though the earthbe laid to waste thereby"[GS 6: 98]. This stormof time cannotrestrainguilt, the Ate, in its persecutionof the wrongdoer,but,blowing fromthe future,it can erase the tracesof the deed andobscurethe courseof his flight. This time does not stretchitself froma point of origin in the past, over a succession of points on a line, throughthe presentand into the future:It is not the time of genealogical descendency,not that of guilt and resulting punishmentand not the time of progress,of strivingtowardan ideal in the future.It is the otherway around, the time thatcomes fromthe "ever-approaching" futureandmoves into its past-and only thus can it be "the thunderously loud oncoming storm of court"[GS 6: 98]. forgivenessbefore the ever-approaching Ethical time does not flow in futurum,but rathercomes ex futuro. This reversed time, this countertime,moving againstthe lineartime of developmentand againstguilt time's indifferenceto time, is able to restrainthe cause-effect sequence-breaking its nexus of guilt and punishmentand even expunging the traces of the misdeed-only because it is not a thetic, positing, or giving time. It is ratheraforgiving, an annulling, annihilating, coming time. As future it is not already taken; it is uncertain and undeterminable for knowledge as for the by programsand prognoses;it is a "nothing" thatholds backannihilationintentionsandactionsthatdevolve fromit. As a "nothing" and re-"nothing," and alter-"nothing"-this time a counter-"nothing" over-"nothing" from the future would be the infinite judgment of the origin of temporalmovement itself-while every execution of judgmentand even everyjudgmentitself is suspended by it. The time to come is the time of origin-not because time must emerge from it before it can pass, but because its coming out of the futureopposes the time thatmoves into the future and gives pause to its movement of annihilation.The time of delay is historical time. It is not logical and mechanical time, but instead the ethical time of Fragment," history.Its methodmay,as Benjamindemandsin his "Theological-Political of the always renewedbeginning. be called nihilism,but its resultis the counternihilism "The Meaning of Time in the Economy of the Moral World":this is the title of Benjamin's sketch, and the "meaning"can thus be found in time's suspension of the principleof guilt-economy(thatof the quidpro quo andthe exchangeof equivalents)in such a way thatonly the "quid" is saved.The dikeof Anaximander foundedthe orderof a time thatrequitedgenesis with demise, permanently accruingguilt and punishmentin in incessant and the self-execution, pursuit of the business of "the self-persecution devastationof being."Justice, however,as Benjaminand Scholem tried to conceive it, is the justice not of a time that comes into being and then passes away, but ratherone that restrainsand gives pause to everythingthat it comes into contact with. It springs free of the mere course of time and,just as the riveris separatefrom its flowing, thus it isolates the individualphenomenaby endowing each of them with an impulse against itself: thus justice is the "eddy" in the flow of time. This is also how Benjamin characterizesthe origin (the category of the work's title) in the "Epistemo-Critical This frequentlycited passage cannot Preface"to his Originof the GermanTrauerspiel. be understoodwithout taking into account its relation to Cohen's concept of origin: "Origin, though certainly an entirely historical category, has nothing to do with something's genesis. In origin what is meant is not the becoming of that which is originated,but ratherand moreover:it means that which emerges out of something's becoming and passing away.The origin standsin the streamof becoming as the eddy, and it tugs the materialof genesis into itself with its rhythmicpulsation"[GS 1: 226]. Historicaltime is nothing but the delay, impediment,and ultimatelythe preventionof


consequences,successions, and descendanciesin the moralworld;it is the liberationof ethical singularityas well as the epoche of economy and all of its branches-within naturalscience, naturallaw, and naturaleconomy. If the orderof the "moralworld"is thenhistoricaltime, as Benjamin imaginedas an orderof acts andmethodicaloperations, is not as conceived an it, by Cohen, but ratherthe operational"nothing" represents It is and the withineveryexecution, of the omission epoche' "nothing" nonoperationality. the guilt economy withoutcontinuingit. and only thus does it interrupt Time excuses and is nothingbut the very motion ex causa. The principleof reason, of of causa andaition, the etiological principleparexcellence-ceases in the "nothing" this pardon.Anyone who seeks to think history has to think this pause and this exposition of temporalsuccession in the countertimeto come-and must thereforethink history without groundand reason, sine culpa et causa. Translatedby KirkWetters

WORKSCITED as Walter. "Capitalism Religion."Selected Writings,Vol. 1. 288-91. Benjamin, - . "Fateand Character." Selected Writings,Vol. 1. 201-06. - . GesammelteBriefe, Bd. II. Ed. C. Godde and H. Lonitz. Frankfurtam Main: Suhrkamp,1996. Frankfurt . GesammelteSchriften.Ed. R. Tiedemannand H. Schweppenhauser. am Main: Suhrkamp,1972-. [GS] . "The Meaning of Time in the Moral Universe."Selected Writings,Vol. 1. 28687. Vol.1:1913-1926. Ed. M. BullockandM. Jennings.Cambridge, . SelectedWritings, MA: Harvard UP, 1996. Bloch, Ernst. Thomas Miinzer als Theologe der Revolution. Frankfurtam Main: Suhrkamp,1962. [TM] Cohen, Hermann.Ethik des reinen Willens. Reprint of the second edition of 1907. Hildesheim:Georg Olms, 1981. [ErW] - . Logik der reinenErkenntnis.Berlin:Cassirir,1902. [LrE] Frankfurt Derrida,Jacques.Gesetzeskraft. [Forceof Law.]Trans.Alex GarciaDtittmann. am Main: Suhrkamp,1991. Streik."Washeii3t 'Darstellen'? Ed. ChristiaanHart Hamacher,Werner."Afformativ, am Frankfurt Main: Suhrkamp,1994. 340-71. Nibbrig. . "Afformative,Strike: Benjamin's 'Critiqueof Violence."' WalterBenjamin's Philosophy-Destruction and Experience.Ed. Andrew Benjamin,Peter Osborne. London:Routledge 1994. 110-38. Walter HartNibbrig. . "Intensive Ubersetzen: Benjamin.Ed. Christiaan Sprachen." Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp,2002. 174-235. - . "Linguaamissa."Futures.Ed. RichardRand.Stanford,StanfordUP, 2001. 13078. . "Linguaamissa."GhostlyDemarcations.Ed. Michael Sprinker. London:Verso, 1999. 168-212. Holzwege. Frankfurtam Main: Heidegger, Martin. "Der Spruch des Anaximander." Klostermann,1959. 296-343. . "Werist Nietzsches Zarathustra?" Vortrdgeund Aufsdtze.Pfullingen: Neske, 1954. 101-26. Gustav."Aufrufzum 1920. Berlin:Cassirer, Landauer Sozialismus," Revolutionsausgabe 1920.

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